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Adams and Reese Special Counsel and Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, who serves as the 2014 Chair of The Council of State Governments, is leading and speaking at a May 13 conference, Tennessee Entrepreneur Day at the FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis, sponsored by The Council and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

“My chairman’s initiative for 2014 is workforce development and education,” Norris said. “We call it ‘State Pathways to Prosperity.’ This is really going to be a two-year initiative. And this is the first year. Entrepreneurs are a critical part of the equation. I’m doing a lot of work all over the U.S. right now on this as everybody is trying to ramp up and close the skills gap in advanced manufacturing.”

There’s been a resurgence of such manufacturing activity in the U.S., Norris said, but the general workforce hasn’t been well prepared for those jobs. “We’re trying to skate to the puck as best we can,” he said. “There’s a lot of catching up to do. It’s very exciting to face this opportunity, but it takes a lot of effort.”

Part of the event at the U of M, which is open to the public, will include a panel and part of it will include individual presentations.

“There’s a lot being said today about the skills gap in advanced manufacturing, and what we’re trying to do in workforce development is get people with a certificate or a degree and get them a job or, if they have a job, get them an apprenticeship and move them up the ladder,” Norris said.

At Adams and Reese, Norris has practiced law since 1980 and is special counsel with the firm in the Memphis and Nashville offices. He was first elected to the Senate in 2000 and as Majority Leader in 2007.

In October 2013, Norris was elected Chairman of the national Council of State Governments. CSG is a bipartisan professional association serving all three branches of government in 50 states and Puerto Rico. International affiliates include the Provincial and Federal governments of Canada. Norris was the first Tennessean elected to the national leadership post. CSG champions excellence in state government. CSG’s region-based forum fosters the exchange of insights and ideas to help state officials shape public policy as states' advocates within our federal system of government.